Hawk Talk: Crawford kept his cool, battled for win

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Hawk Talk: Crawford kept his cool, battled for win

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010
4:57 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford wasn't sure how he did it, really.

Following his first victory of the season against Buffalo on Monday, a game that certainly didn't look like it would end up in the Blackhawks' favor at the start, the backup netminder was asked how he settled himself down after getting down 2-0 within the first three minutes.

"I don't know," he said. "I just kept battling and just tried to keep playing my game."

Why did battling work for Crawford? Because he's had to do it so much over these past few seasons, that's why. He's gone through a few "auditions" to be one of the Blackhawks' two goaltenders, but he kept coming up just short. So he kept working, improving. Battling. And this season, Crawford earned that spot that had eluded him the past few seasons.

So he had a choice. He could've caved under the pressure of an early deficit (despite the fact that he wasn't the only problem through those first few minutes. His fellow Blackhawk teammates all looked like they were still operating on CST) or he could take a deep breath and remember why he was here.

Because he earned it.

Crawford got solid. He squared up. He kept his game simple. Basically, he did everything he said he wanted to do at that morning's skate and it worked. And 32 stops later, Crawford was collecting victory No. 1 as Blackhawks goalie No. 2.

Now keep in mind that Crawford nearly didn't get the chance to regroup, at least in this game. Coach Joel Quenneville admitted that the Blackhawks' rocky start nearly prompted him to take a time out to calm his team down and he also thought about pulling Crawford. In watching the first few minutes, I wouldn't have blamed Quenneville for doing eitherboth. In hindsight, it was a great decision to do nothing.

Crawford needed to work through that, because bad days, bad periods, bad goals are going to happen. It's the nature of the job. Now if things would've gotten worse, if the Sabres goals would've kept coming, then the early yank may have been unavoidable.

But he didn't get worse, he got better. He allowed only one more the rest of the way and made some big stops down the stretch, especially in that final minute when the Sabres were on a 6 on 4 (empty net and Blackhawks delay of game).

Maybe we shouldn't have been surprised by Crawford's rebound on Monday night. He's had the try-try-again mentality his entire young career in the Blackhawks' organization and it really paid off this season.

Yes, Monday was just one game, but it led to great results for all involved. The Blackhawks got their first victory of the season. Crawford got his first victory of the year and, you would think, a big boost of confidence. The tests will keep coming for Crawford, who will probably play at least 20-25 games this season.

So far, so good.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Bears’ Markus Wheaton says wide receiver group is 'definitely underrated'

Bears’ Markus Wheaton says wide receiver group is 'definitely underrated'

No doubt, there are doubts about the makeup of this 2017 Bears wide receiver corps. But as the departed Alshon Jeffery created doubts, health-wise, the past two years about whether he could stay on the field to prove himself worthy of a big payday (which he didn’t even get from the Eagles), Ryan Pace brought in a handful of replacements who’ve flashed in this league before. But recent history’s shown each of them has something to prove as well.

From Rueben Randle to fellow former Giant Victor Cruz. From former first rounders Kendall Wright to Kevin White, taking a third swing at making it though an entire NFL season.

Then there’s Markus Wheaton, the only free agent signee at the position this season to receive a two-year deal ($11 million total, with $6 million guaranteed). Like the rest of the group, though, he’s at a career crossroads. Following seasons with 53 and 44 catches in Pittsburgh in 2014 and 2015 (with a 17-yard average in the latter), the quick-twitch former Steeler was limited to three games a year ago before eventually undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in January.

“Everyone’s new, so we don’t know what it’s gonna be,” he said of the group at the team’s recent minicamp in Lake Forest. “In Pittsburgh you kind of have a clue `cause they’ve done it for so long. Everybody’s new, everybody’s trying to find their niche, so we’ll see how it goes. Anything’s possible. We’ve got a lot of guys who are looking for opportunity. A lot of guys that are hungry and have something to prove. Anything’s possible. Anyone can come out on top. The ultimate goal is to win games and I’m sure the coaches will put us in position to do that.”

The former third-round pick out of Oregon State (where he’s the Beavers’ all-time career leader in receptions, one ahead of Brandin Cooks) played all three receiver positions in Pittsburgh at various times, and while he seems most natural in the slot, is working to make himself as versatile as possible here. But that comes with some risk as a quarterback room that’s also gone through its share of turnover tries to get on the same page with all the targets. But Wheaton is more than confident the results will come from within this group.

“I think we definitely are underrated," Wheaton said. "We’ve come in and worked to get to where we wanna be. We will get there, and it’ll show up on the field.”

The incumbents in the room include Joshua Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Daniel Braverman, Cam Meredith, and, of course, White. Wheaton can see the potential in the ex-seventh overall draft pick.

“I couldn’t imagine all the stuff he’s been through, all the pressure that’s been put on him," Wheaton said. "But he’s a down-to-earth guy who works extremely hard, so I think he’s gonna get his. He’s a big-time playmaker, so I’m excited to see him play.

“They welcomed me with open arms. Everybody’s down to earth, been easy to talk to so when I have questions, I’ve been getting answers, so it’s been real easy for me.”

That surgically-repaired shoulder was cleared for full participation just in time for minicamp two weeks ago. And Wheaton won’t allow himself to become hesitant physically as he aims to conquer what hesitation he could have within the offense, working with quarterbacks not named Ben Roethlisberger.

“I really don’t think there’s time for that. When you’re ready to go, you just go,” Wheaton told us. “You come in, you work, you rehab. And for me personally I had to rehab a lot to get back to where I wanted to be. There’s a level I want to be at. I’ve been just working to get there, so there’s no time for that.”

That last statement comes even if some observers hesitate to call Wheaton and these wideouts “underrated.” They’ll start attempting to prove that when the Bears report to Bourbonnais exactly one month from Monday.

Derek Holland not satisfied despite strong outing in White Sox loss

Derek Holland not satisfied despite strong outing in White Sox loss

Derek Holland turned in one of his best starts of the season on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, the White Sox had nothing to show for it after a 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday afternoon.

In six innings, Holland allowed four hits, one earned run, and two walks while recording six strikeouts. He was charged with his only run in the seventh, when he allowed a single to Yonder Alonso, who came around to score after Holland had been pulled from the game.

Despite his confidence in the bullpen, which has been one of the White Sox biggest strengths this season, Holland would like to see himself go deeper into the games.

“I should be getting into the 7th and not having 110 pitches,” Holland said. “The bullpen's done a great job of picking us up in the seventh, eighth and ninth. The starters, and really pointing more to myself, we need to...I need to go out there and go longer."

Entering Sunday, three of Holland’s last four starts had been the worst outings of the season – allowing 22 earned runs over those four games. Despite the team’s 5-3 loss, Holland felt his outing was a step in the right direction.

“I felt good about everything out there,” Holland said. “(Omar Narvaez) and I were right on the same page. There were just a couple of things that got away from us. Just one of those things. Defense made the plays for us when they needed to, unfortunately we just didn't come out on top."

Manager Rick Renteria also had high praise for the 30-year-old southpaw, who bounced back from one of his shortest outings of the season.

“I thought Holland, hopefully what's not lost is Holland's outing today was really, really good,” Renteria said. “He kept us in the ballgame. They've got some kids that can swing the bat. They were putting things together. All we were trying to do at the end was minimize any damage they could produce. We weren't able to.”